ED 610 Week One (Fall 2020)


Hi Everyone,

Welcome to our ED 610, Unmaking the Adult Learner: Adult Education from Training to Empowered Possibility.


Let me start first by introducing myself, and then I will talk a bit about this course.


For those of you who don’t already know me, let me briefly tell you about myself so that you know who is at this end. My name is Randall, but I go by Dana.

I did my undergraduate work (Bachelor of Arts) at the University of Alberta, majoring in philosophy and English. After that I completed a Bachelors of Education degree. I taught elementary and middle school for five years in a small community in central Alberta. While teaching, I worked on my Master’s degree at the University of Oregon and then Doctoral work at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. My research was in, and continues to be in, the philosophy of education, language, technology and media.

My initial interest in technology and media developed while using music technologies (MIDI synthesizers and sequencers) personally and in the classroom. When I was in high school I turned my parent’s basement into a recording studio. It began as a fairly modest endeavor (this was before the advent of digital recording equipment). I had an 8 track reel-to-reel tape recorder, sound board, mics, etc.. At the time, all of this seemed pretty exciting. Of course, it was difficult to replicate what major studios were doing because they had the money to bring in any type of musician to play any type of instrument. Plus, the major studios had some pretty impressive sounding synthesizers and sound samplers (all in about the $50,000 range, which in today’s money would be closer to $100,000). Anything I could afford was pretty limited in comparison. But, as you know, computer-based equipment started to take off. Synthesizers started to become affordable. The personal computer was marketed as something affordable. And, before long, it was easy to be sitting with a 64 track digital recording outfit. Anyway, enough reminiscing. Suffice it to say that I became interested in computer technologies through music.

I taught for a number of years in the public school system, and maintained my interest in technology while teaching. I was the computer coordinator of the school, and I developed one of the first electronic music labs for student composition and performance in the province of Alberta.

After teaching for five years, and completing a Masters in Computers in Education at the University of Oregon, I began my Doctoral research at Simon Fraser University. My area of study focused on the ontology of technology and the human-educational implications that emerge through phenomenological analysis and existential examination. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? What that means is that I like to come to understand how people experience the world and the role that schooling and education plays into that.

Eventually I moved to Alabama where I taught at Auburn University at Montgomery for three years. Finally I moved to Oregon and have been teaching here for twenty one years.

I am a professor in the college of education. My current research is in the area of vocabulary and language development.

My wife is a retired nurse, and my children are grown–both are university students.

As for hobbies: I love downhill skiing (though I don’t get out as much as I used to), I play and record a lot of music, and I am a pilot.

I am always trying to learn something new (Adult learner right?). Right now I am studying Chinese.

I think that kind of sums up who I am.



Now, your turn. If you would, please email (ulvelad@wou.edu) me and tell me a bit about yourself. Please include “ED 610” in the subject heading. I would also love to hear why you are taking an adult education course.


Now, let me talk more about this class.

Is this the first online class you have had with me?

If you have taken any of my other online classes, you will know what to expect for the most part. This class will will be much the same–a little less philosophical, but the teaching and learning will be similar. In most of my classes I try to create an environment where we wonder and ask a lot of questions. I normally develop a rather lengthy argument that is woven throughout the course, and then work through the argument with my students over the ten weeks. As I develop the argument I invite others to draw on their own experiences to refute or verify the various subcomponents of the main argument.

This class will be a bit different.

How do I envision this class? Well, of course we are questioning into the idea of adult learning. And in doing so we will try to come to some understanding as to what adult learning means, where the idea comes from historically, how it differs from pedagogy, and some of the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of andragogy. Perhaps most importantly, in an attempt to respect andragogical practices (that is adult learning) as it has been defined and articulated by others, we will try to put ourselves into an environment where you, the adult learner, becomes largely responsible for your own learning. This puts you in the driver seat so to speak. When this happens, my role changes also. I become more of a facilitator, trusting that you are learning what you want to learn. All of this will become a bit clearer as we put some of Knowles’ theory into practice.

Where did Moodle go?

Perhaps you have wondered why we are not working from a Moodle shell. Here is my reasoning for that. When we adopt a template or a format such as a Moodle shell, there are assumptions in the structure of the design. Once we adopt a design structure we begin to adopt practices that fulfill the design assumptions within the structure. You can see this in textbook design. Textbooks are designed with chapters seemingly appropriate course length and class time, with summaries, questioning formats, and testing assumptions. Online class shells privilege similar assumptions and formats. For example, Moodle is set up with surveillance mechanisms so that the instructor can monitor when students log in to the class; grade sheets so that a particular format of grading becomes important; design blocks that give the impression that information structures can and should be reduced to blocks; and, privilege discussion boards that encourage a sort of student interaction that might not be beneficial. Now, discussion boards are fine, however, they do not replicate good classroom discussions. Why? Because in a classroom discussion the teacher can control the discussion encouraging the sort of thinking that would lead to a greater depth and breadth of understanding. There is an immediacy in the dialog whereby the teacher can help make connections between ideas, bring in new concepts, and correct misconceptions. This is not possible in a weekly discussion board that is compressed into a 10-week class. I find the Moodle shells have a text book look and lead to a text book feel. With a design in place, instruction follows suit.

Now lots of teachers love Moodle–you might too. For me though, it doesn’t suit the way I perceive adult education (graduate education). We know that adult learners don’t have time for busy work, have very busy lives, are seldom motivated by the threat of grades (at least shouldn’t be), have little interest in complying for the sake of complying, have a multitude of reasons for taking classes, and need autonomy. When we adopt a particular design or course structure that might be better aligned to pedagogical practice than andragogical practice, many of these aspects can be obscured. Note: andragogy is the method and practice of teaching adult learners; pedagogy is the art or science of teaching that has its etymological roots in tutoring children.

Perhaps some of my thinking comes from working on my Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University. When I entered the doctoral program I was given my schedule of courses. There were four. Four courses to take. That didn’t seem like very many I thought. So I wondered why the average completion time for doctoral work was five years. That is when I came to understand that graduate work means coming up with new knowledge. New ideas. It is not simply re-stating other people’s already formed ideas. That is not to say that it isn’t important to know what other scholars’ ideas are. It is to say that there is an assumption that graduate work necessitates original thought. I also realized that new and innovative thinking requires the exploration of very unique contexts. So, I learned quickly that every graduate student was exploring very different areas–areas that weren’t even understood by other professors.

One of my committee members was Don Ihde. He is an expert in the philosophy of science and technology. He lived in another country on the other side of the continent. He was very influential the work I was doing. And even though he was on my doctoral committee, I never actually met him in person. But I did read all of his books, and I did talk with him through email. When I read his books it was if I could hear his voice. I heard his stories and his insights. These were not text books. These were writings that drew me in to consider new ideas. His teachings were not simply the dissemination of information (as many text books are designed to do). I was listening to ‘him’ through his writing. I have rarely found a text book that felt like I was getting to personally know the author. Textbooks often feel disconnected, written for everyone and no one. But as I read Dr. Ihde’s books I felt as though he was talking to me — mentoring me — a role model for my own thinking. If I felt I needed to verify my own thinking or my new ideas, I would go off and read other research and philosophy that would help substantiate my own thinking. I found my own mentors, I talked to others when I was looking for answers, and I was exploring. I had autonomy. I was responsible for my own learning. I wasn’t doing busy work for any one because I was responsible for my own learning. I was on my own time schedule. And I learned the importance if seeking out others who might help me in my own academic pursuit. Grades had no bearing on my work. I either passed my comprehensive exams and dissertation defense or I didn’t. Nobody was standing over me saying if you don’t do this or that you will get docked 10 points.

So, this might give you some idea as to how I think of our relationship. This might give you a better idea as to why I resist formats such as Moodle.

I don’t want to think of any of my graduate-level courses as ‘information’ courses. Undergraduate courses are more akin to ‘information’ courses. As undergraduates we learn what others already know. But this should be thought of as a course that gives us the opportunity to uncover aspects of experience or reality that are not already apparent. We can learn what others have to say, and then branch off into our own pursuits. From the known to the unknown so to speak. When we are getting into those spaces where no one has been before, we are in graduate territory.

(This is Jim, working his way into graduate territory)


This is not a class where I am expecting you to memorize a lot of material. In fact, testing can be thought of as a hindrance to andragogy. This is in part because this is a graduate-level class where we should be taking what we know about adult learners and apply that to ourselves and our future work. I don’t have a textbook with all the answers. If I am doing a good job as a graduate teacher I am encouraging you to ask questions that allow us to think into new ideas that have not yet been fully uncovered.


Course Expectations

What does this mean, then, for course expectations? If our goal were to accumulate a mass of information, then a demonstration of learning would be to show that you have amassed large masses of information and I would evaluate your accumulation accordingly. Now if you were a medical student removing an appendix or treating a kidney infection, I would want to be sure that you knew the difference between a kidney and an appendix. But this is not our purpose. If you were working on your pilot license I would want you to have very specific understandings of the workings of aerodynamics, weather, and communication procedures. Flying an airplane in controlled airspace is not the time to be coming up with new innovative ideas on your own.

But, as a university graduate course, it is also our responsibility to come up with ‘new knowledge,’ ‘new ways of thinking,’ or ‘new ways of understanding.’

We do, though, have to concern ourselves with two institutional expectations. The institution requires evaluation and grades. The graduate school expects some evidence of new knowledge. Fair enough. We can handle that.

We also need to concern ourselves with your needs as an adult learner–some of those things I mentioned before.

First: The Adult Learning Course Content

To account for the institutional expectations we can structure our course expectations this way: I will ask you to summarize and analyze some of the material I provide for you. This will account for the required content expected by the university. Of course this content is very general and we can always related the ideas to your own personal interests or pursuits. I will try to be as flexible as possible in how I structure this. Interestingly, as I have found, it is often that which seems on the periphery of one’s interests that provides the stimulus for new and innovative ideas.

Second: Your Content Creation AKA ‘Final Project’

You pursue your own line of exploration and begin to develop an instructional package (or curriculum, or resource) appropriate for the adult learning.  — your own “work in progress.”  If you like, you can develop something for yourself. You pursue you own interests, satisfying your own reasons for pursing adult education. So, if you are interested in health education, you might explore that area with the question, “How can I help other adults learn about health.” If you are interested in software development for adults, you might explore the related research in that area and begin to consolidate resources that could be used to aid in teaching the adult learning. If you are interested in teaching in a college or university, you might want to find out all you can to prepare yourself for a new job. If you are interested in creating community educational programs for seniors, you might examine the research that gives you a better understanding of the needs of the elderly. If you are interested in teaching yourself more about teaching online (for example, if you would like to develop your skills at working with Screenflow to teach your students, then teach yourself Screenflow. If you are interested in . . . . Obviously I could go on and on and on. Learn for you, don’t fall into the trap of doing work solely for someone else. Create your own intellectual journey.

What you do has to be meaningful and important (I guess if it is meaningful it is important 🙂 If you are working on a master’s thesis or master’s project, you might want to examine your ideas in terms of adult learning theory. Or, you might consider developing the presentation

Of course I would like to know what you are exploring and the progress you are making so I will ask that you share your ‘work in progress’ with me (in summary form) when you submit your work to me. Then, the culmination of your work will be considered your final project.

This final “work in progress” will be the final submission.

So there we have it. The course requirements that help satisfy the university, graduate school, and our own adult learning expectations in two parts.

Part one: summaries of the broad-based content.

Part two: your own development of your own individualized explorations.


How should these responses look?

Each week I will ask that you summarize our course content based on questions I ask. In other words, I will ask you a few questions regarding the content and you provide your responses. I do my best to respect your own autonomy by trying to ensure my questions are open ended. I will also try to ensure that you leave with an understanding of the theories that will give you expertise on adult learning (andragogy).

I will ask questions each week, but will ask that you send your responses only three times during the term. That way I am able to create a rotation of assignments with my other classes. This will also give you some flexibility in how you work through the course content.

Also, when you submit your summaries on those three dates during the course, I will ask that you also share with me a summary of your “Work in Progress” — your explorations. You will be teaching me what you are learning in your particular area and what interests you personally.



Enough with the formalities. Lets start digging in to Adult Education


(This is Sam digging into Adult Learning)


 Let’s begin by exploring the concept of Andragogy

So, let us begin. Let’s begin by gaining a broad understanding of how adult learning is defined. This will be valuable to us regarding of our teaching context. If we are developing curriculum or instructional practices for adults, knowing some of the theories in place might help us develop better instructional contexts. If we find ourselves going for a job interview where we will be teaching adults, knowing the differences between andragogy and pedagogy will show that we are well versed in the differences that might apply to teaching adults versus children.

Just a head’s-up, here is the question that I have regarding the videos:

Please summarize the difference between pedagogy and andragogy. In your summary please include the principles articulated in Malcolm Knowles’ Theory of Adult Learning. Finally, what does all of this mean to you as an adult educator or as an adult student?

Your response doesn’t have to be long (certainly no more than a page)–point form if you like. I am more concerned with what you learn than what you produce. Use this activity to help you put these ideas into your own words so that you can talk or write about them.



Andragogy (Adult Learning)


Pedagogy vs. Andragogy

Here is short presentation by Lawaune Netter. I really like the way she compares andragogy and pedagogy. This makes it easy to see some of the differences between the two.




Now A Word About The Following Clips

For the following video clips you will have to log in to the clip using your WOU login and password. I have embedded each video into the page, but some browsers don’t read the embed code very well and the video link can be broken. In that case, I have also linked the title of the documentary to the WOU Films on Demand page where you can (after logging in) view the video and also see the transcripts of the video on the same page. Also note, you can speed up the video at the bottom right of the screen.

Click on Adult Learning title below to go straight to the documentary in WOU’s Films on Demand.

Adult Learning 1: Principles

In this video we will learn about some of the challenges adult learners have as well as some of their advantages over younger learners. We will also here how we can develop the most appropriate environments for adult learners. We will get another review of Malcolm Knowles theory, and hear what the the theory says about three styles of learning.



Adult Learning 2: Styles

In this clip we here more about learning styles. I should mention that the idea of learning styles is contentious. While it sounds reasonable, the initial research was highly flawed and has since been debated. Nevertheless, we don’t need to discount the idea of learning styles and we can look into the idea further in a future lecture when we spend some time examining how neurons are wired together in the brain.,




Adult learning 3: Inclusive Practices




Keeping inclusivity and diversity in mind, let me share with you this next short clip regarding non-traditional students.


Personalized Learning’ Can Put College In Reach For Non-Traditional Students



Finally for the clips. We know all this already, but sometimes someone different giving a review helps.


Working with Adult Learners



There we have it. We can now talk about the some of the differences between pedagogy and andragogy. If we were being interviewed for a job and were questioned about adult learning, we have a great basis for a solid answer. If we plan on creating curriculum or teaching adult learners we have a great place to begin our thinking in develop our craft. If we are working on a graduate project or thesis that has anything to do with adult learning, we have some initial resources for our literature review.


Response Question

If you recall: Each week I will ask that you summarize our course content based on questions I ask. In other words, I will ask you a few questions regarding the content and you provide your responses. I will ask questions each week, but will ask that you send your responses only three times during the term. That way I am able to create a rotation of assignments with my other classes.

I ask that you email your responses to me on the submission days. You will find these dates on the syllabus. I also ask that you attach a pdf, word, or pages document of your responses to the email that you send me. Also, please include “ED 610 Responses” in the subject heading. Thanks.

Please email me this Part I and Part II response on Tuesday, January 28th (on the fourth week of class). You will add the next two summaries from lecture two and three in your submission after you are finished .

Part I Question 1

Please summarize the difference between pedagogy and andragogy. In your summary please include the principles articulated in Malcolm Knowles’ Theory of Adult Learning. Finally, what does all of this mean to you as an adult educator or as an adult student?

Your response doesn’t have to be long (certainly no more than a page)–point form if you like. I am more concerned with what you learn than what you produce. Use this activity to help you put these ideas into your own words so that you can talk or write about them.

Part II

Also, if you recall: when you submit your summaries (Part I stuff), you will also share with me a “work in progress” of what you are exploring. You will be teaching me what you are learning.

So, this might be a good time to give some thought as to what you are interested in exploring. What will your “work in progress” consist of? Perhaps jotting down some questions, or developing your own research plan. What does “adult education” mean to you? What can you do with these ideas? Are there more questions you have that might be worth exploring? What can you take away from this that might empower you?

I know you are only at the beginning of a planning stage here, but this might be a good time to start thinking about what you would like to explore and produce as far as an adult learning topic.


That is enough for today. I hope all of this makes sense. I hope you are enjoying thinking about adult learning.

Oh yes, please don’t forget to send me a quick email about yourself 🙂 Thanks!

Until next day, have a great week!